Court Rules on School Voucher Dispute Between Louisiana, Feds

Wednesday, 09 Apr 2014 01:09 PM

By Melanie Batley

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A federal judge has handed down a ruling to settle a long-running, politically charged dispute between the federal government and Louisiana over the state's private school voucher program, according to Politico.

The ruling requires Louisiana to provide the Justice Department with information in a timely manner about the racial background of students participating in the program so that the federal government can ensure the program is not exacerbating school segregation.

Louisiana GOP Gov. Bobby Jindal had strongly resisted the Obama administration's attempts to monitor the voucher program, which subsidizes tuition at private and religious schools for thousands of low-income and middle-class students.

In the past, he accused the President Barack Obama of trying to "red tape the program to death," at one point vowing to take the case all the way to the Supreme Court.

The Justice Department hailed the ruling as a victory.

"We welcome the court's order, as it rejects the state's bid to resist providing even the most basic information about how Louisiana's voucher program will affect school desegregation efforts," Attorney General Eric Holder said, according to Politico.

"This ruling ought to resolve once and for all, the unnecessary dispute initiated by the state's refusal to provide data."

Jindal also welcomed the ruling, saying the new reporting rules narrowed the scope for federal interference.

"I am pleased that the court rejected President Obama's Justice Department's attempt to establish a review period where bureaucrats in Washington would be able to reject scholarship awards solely because the child is not the 'right' skin color," Jindal, a possible 2016 presidential contender, said in a statement Tuesday, according to Politico.

He said the Justice Department was not granted the right to delay voucher awards for up to 45 days as it had requested while it reviews student demographic information. Instead, the ruling gives the department just 10 days to review the information.

Nevertheless, the data the state will be required to submit could be used to challenge the distribution of some school vouchers if the department determines that sending students to private schools would disrupt federal efforts to keep public schools integrated.

Attorney General Holder initially tried to halt Louisiana's school voucher program out of concern that sending thousands of students to private schools would disrupt the racial balance in some public schools, but he abandoned the effort and instead demanded information on each participating student.

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